Home / The Early Word: New Non-Fiction Books for the Week of July 07, 2008

The Early Word: New Non-Fiction Books for the Week of July 07, 2008

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As you peruse the following list of new releases, you may want to keep in mind — never mind that it smacks of inapplicable forward thinking run amuck — the role ballroom dancing might play in CIA reform.

Call it intelligence re-design. The author — having worked for decades as a deep cover officer in the CIA focusing on human sources with access to intelligence on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction — makes the case for intelligence reform and traces the career of an accomplished CIA case officer who struggled with the agency’s ineffectual and swollen bureaucracy. It's a wide array of challenges. From evading co-workers trying to sabotage his work, work avoidance schemes, recounting the comical saga of his friend — the world’s worst spy — and falling prey to a dead-baby con scheme in Bombay; to detailing inept CIA training and torture courses, the inability to place spies in foreign countries, disappearing money, and great gaps in intelligence, the Plame incident — Ishmael Jones becomes convinced, as recounted in Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, that the CIA's failure to achieve its objectives endangers American citizens. To the extent that it made poor use of good employees, lacked accountability, the ability to clear missions, and to streamline management, any substantial reform from within smacked of drop-in-a-bucket insufficiency. Jones resigned from the CIA to make a public case for reform through the writing of this incisive and yet often amusing book.

Moving on, a subject that presents a different set of complexities is demanded in a book that chroncicles a devastating stroke after which the author felt at times like "a one-trick pony, and reading was my trick": Howard Engel, the award-winning author of the Benny Cooperman mystery series, picked up his newspaper one morning from his front step and discovered he could no longer read it. The letters had mysteriously jumbled themselves into something that looked like Cyrillic one moment and Korean the next. During sleep, Engel had experienced the affliction and he now suffered from a rare condition called alexia sine agraphia. What this meant — in addition to the fact that while he could still write, he could no longer read — was that he also suffered from impaired memory and loss of a sense of geography. The compelling memoir The Man Who Forgot How to Read focuses on Engel’s rehabilitation and recovery as he works with a specialist who helps him master the meticulous process of learning to decipher words letter by letter, and other painstaking strategies – including the writing of a "memory book" and a journal, renewing his computer skills, and actually starting work on a new novel.

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve
By Christopher Andersen

Quick, Before The Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life
By Janet Carlson

The Man Who Forgot How to Read: A Memoir
By Howard Engel, Oliver Sacks (Afterword)

Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Life and Times of L. M. Montgomery
By Irene Gammel

Black Religion: Malcolm X, Julius Lester, and Jan Willis
By William D. Hart

Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture
By Ishmael Jones

The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"
By Linda Porter

Black-Eyed Peas, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life (with Recipes)
By Julia Reed

Fighting Words: A Tale of How Liberals Created Neo-Conservatism
By Ben J. Wattenberg

Political Economy of Regionalism in East Asia: Integrative Explanation for Dynamics and Challenges
By Hidetaka Yoshimatsu

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